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Literature in the Flanaess - The Elven Sonnets of Liam Wilspare
Posted on Tue, June 13, 2006 by Dongul
gvdammerung writes "The Bard. Of Greyhawk. The Elven Sonnets include:

Celene
Evergold
Hanali
Yolanthe
Jewel
Courwood
Farewell
Esmerin
Jurne

"Love comforteth like sunshine after rain."

Literature in the Flanaess - The Elven Sonnets of Liam Wilspare
By: Glenn Vincent Dammerung, aka GVDammerung
Posted with permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

Liam Wilspare’s relationship with the elves of the Flanaess has been an enduring source of debate for scholars. While elves feature prominently in only three plays - Megwandir (581 CY); A Midsummer’s Eve (586 CY); A Midwinter’s Dream (594 CY) - they do so in a way that suggests a more than passing acquaintance with elven customs, particularly those of Celene. Theories range from the Bard having spent some considerable time among the elves, in either Celene or perhaps Highfolk, to his being of some elven extraction, most usually imagined as half-elven. Wilspare has been notably quiet on the topic, apparently content to allow speculation to fuel publicity.

The Elven Sonnets
, also known as The Courwood Lays, spark the greatest debate. Written over the course of two decades, the assemblage were first published as a whole in 599 CY. Individual sonnets dating from earlier years were previously published (see below). Marked by themes of love, the Elven Sonnets again demonstrate a profound knowledge of not simply elven customs but verse forms. Because of their overriding theme, however, the possibility that Wilspare had a long running relationship with an elf has become au courant. Traditionalists scoff at this notion, pointing out that in three of the critical sonnets - Evergold, Hanali and Yolanthe - Wilspare could just as easily be writing in a purely courtly fashion, not necessarily in an intimate or personal context.

Whatever the case, Wilspare has produced some of the most accomplished and widely circulated love poetry in the Flanaess. The 599 CY publication of the collected Elven Sonnets has sparked a resurgent interest in poetry as other than a medium for epic sagas. In combination with his Later Ballads, Wilspare has inaugurated the modern poetic movement in the Flanaess. Each of the Elven Sonnets is described below.

General Note on Publication - Use of the term publication is misleading with regard to individual poems. None are individually of sufficient length to actually be bound. Rather, they are made available in collections or as presentation scrolls. All of Wilspare’s Elven Sonnets first appeared as presentation scrolls in highly limited numbers. All have been later reproduced in collections and after 599 CY in the collected Elven Sonnets, which is the first genuine first edition.

Celene (Pastoral)
by Liam Wilspare
1st Publication - 580 CY

Celene is not a love poem, per se, but is more accurately described as a pastoral. Concerned with idyllic depictions of the countryside and simple lives or pleasures, the pastoral evokes a place in, usually, sentimental and idealized terms. Thus is Celene. Given its early date, it is speculated that it was around 580 CY that Wilspare first visited Celene, whether or not he formed any personal attachments or discovered any hidden elven heritage remaining open to question.

Evergold (Love)
by Liam Wilspare
1st Publication - 584 CY

The critical first love poem of the Elven Sonnets, Evergold describes the realm of the elven goddess Hanali Celanil. In so doing, it follows the pastoral model of Celene. However, the intimate entreaties to an unnamed personage more than give it the character of a love poem. Scholars denying any affair of the heart point to this and the following poems - Hanali and Jolanthe - as evidence of an altogether different intent, one consistent only with courtly love.

Hanali (Love)
by Liam Wilspare
1st Publication - 585 CY

Hanali is on its face a love poem directed to the elven goddess. Many find it an inherently religious paean, however odd this may be coming from Wilspare. Few take it literally. A number, however, see Wilspare using Hanali as a substitute for his actual audience, complimenting her the more with a comparison to the elven goddess of love. Of the Elven Sonnets, Hanali is perhaps the most controversial. Is the author continuing to develop a theme or is he growing more confident and bold.

Yolanthe (Love)
by Liam Wilspare
1st Publication - 585 CY

Yolanthe provides little help in deciphering the Courwood Lays. By this writing, the Courwood Lays are half complete and have yet to demonstrate other than a knowledge of their subject matter to be expected from a master bard. On its face, Yolanthe is a masterpiece of courtly love, a fervent ode to one’s liege lady. Yolanthe is, of course, an alternate spelling of Yolande. It is as well a diminutive of Yolande and a name in its own right. Those advocating a half-elven heritage for the Bard, have Yolanthe the cornerstone of their argument as the Bard supposedly recognizes his mixed heritage and swears fealty to the Queen in verse. No one seriously suggests that Wilspare actually enjoyed a dalliance with the Fey Queen of Celene.

Jewel (Pastoral)
by Liam Wilspare
1st Publication - 588 CY

Returning to the pastoral form, Wilspare ostensibly evokes the Jewel River. He does so, however, in a way that suggests a hidden meaning or purpose. There is a definably cryptic quality to Jewel. Is the Jewel also his jewel? More wildly, some have suggested that the Bard is referring to some elven treasure and couching his reference in metaphor. This theory is deemed absurd by most serious commentators. The juxtaposition of Jewel with the subsequent Courwood suggests the pastoral has, at least, a double meaning. Romanticists seize on this possibility to argue for the inauguration of a love affair at this point, if not earlier.

Courwood (Love)
by Liam Wilspare
1st Publication - 593 CY

Without question, this is a love poem of the most personal sort. As such, it is the first unarguably such poem in the Elven Sonnets. The name of the young lady to whom the poetry is addressed is not revealed but Wilspare is at the height of his power in composing the sonnet and doubtless believed he had no need to be so direct. Courwood stands as the most perfect example of a modern love poem yet to see wide circulation. It has become a model for bards and lovers throughout the Flanaess. It is from this poem, and the imagery of the Elven Sonnets more generally, that the alternative name - The Courwood Lays - derives.

Farewell (Love)
by Liam Wilspare
1st Publication - 593 CY

As ebullient in its way as Courwood, Farewell is characterized by intense longing and anticipated loss. In combining these themes, there is an argument to be made that Farewell is the finer poem than Courwood. Certainly, both are masterpieces. Once again, however, there is a debate as to whether the leave-taking is from a love or from the silvan realm. It seems most likely that this is a personal expression for the loss of a love, given the juxtaposition of Courwood. While a matter of scholarly debate, the public has certainly taken to Farewell as a expression of the most personal of losses, that of a lover.

Esmerin (Pastoral)
by Liam Wilspare
1st Publication - 594 CY

Esmerin as a locality is a myth. It may or it may not exist. Apparently taking the position that it is a real place, Wilspare evokes it in epically pastoral terms. It becomes a balm for the soul and an idealized refuge from the cares of the world. This use of verse obviously lends itself to being interpreted as metaphor, particularly in the wake of Farwell. Conversely, there are those literalists who imagine that Wilspare actually visited Esmerin. Certainly, he immortalized its legend. Any further truth is obscure.

Jurne (Love)
by Liam Wilspare
1st Publication - 598 CY

Ending on an upnote, if oddly so given the ostensible topic, Jurne returns to the theme of romantic love. It is a finely balanced poem and, in this, is a fitting conclusion to the Sonnets. If the earlier sonnets reflected a tumultuous rush or swing of sensation or feeling, Jurne sees all elements in balance. Clearly a personal expression of love, the specific references to the city of Jurne are unexplained. Unless one imagines that Wilspare had an extensive sojourn in the area, Jurne is oddly titled. Again, all theories remain more or less viable. In well concluding the Elven Sonnets, Wilspare not only provides a brilliant poetic cycle but gives scholars a cause to debate, as if such were ever needed.

"
 
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Re: Literature in the Flanaess - The Elven Sonnets of Liam Wilspare (Score: 1)
by Wolfsire on Tue, June 13, 2006
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This is a nice way to round out the character Liam Wilspare.  But how would you incorporate these into a campaign?  I have a pretty good idea of how to work with the plays, but sonnets would seem to be more useful in the actual verse for when slaying the dragon will not win fair maiden’s hand.  Perhaps a riddle has to be solved?  Not that writing sonnets would be an easy task.  The best I could like do is crank out a limerick:

There was a werewolf from the Dreadwood.
For all of his life he had fed good.
With granny away,
And him acting fey,
He found he could eat up a red hood!

Not too romantic.




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